Canada frequently denies admission to Americans and travelers from all over the world based upon prior criminal convictions. Border officials often disregard the length of time passed from the date of the conviction to the time of attempted entry into Canada. Thus, an individual with a conviction from decades prior may be denied entry into Canada at the border. Specifically, misdemeanor crimes in the United States, such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and/or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), are significantly more serious in Canada and can result in the traveler being denied entry at the Canadian border. Notably, Canada generally does not recognize the United States’ expungement and pardon policies and, consequently, even expunged convictions and dismissed or reduced charges may impact one’s eligibility to travel or move to Canada.
However, for those with pending charges and future plans to travel across the border into Canada for business purposes or to visit family and friends, thereis a possible solution. Felony charges can often be reduced or dismissed by invoking the person’s need to travel to Canada. A legal opinion letter submitted to the District Attorney or presiding Judge outlining the impact of a felony conviction on the individual’s Canadian travel plans may result in reduced or dropped charges, particularly for first time offenders. Specifically, the letter describes how the charges against this individual would result in hardship because a conviction can prevent entry into Canada for years. The travel plans need not be immediately following the conviction, instead, the individual must show they have a future need to travel to Canada. These letters may also be presented to border officials when attempting to cross into Canada by persons who have a charge on their record but are otherwise eligible for entry into the country.
It is important to note that these letters must be written prior to conviction. Therefore, individuals who frequently travel to Canada on business and are charged with a crime that would prevent their entry into Canada should strongly consider seeking legal counsel on this issue and making this need known to the court.
If you are concerned that your current charges may impact your travel to Canada, this chart of United States Crimes and Canadian Equivalents may assist you : http://www.ezbordercrossing.com/the-inspection-experience/prior-criminal-offenses/u-s-crimes-and-canadian-equivalent/.
Anyone interested in this topic should see help from a lawyer familiar with the laws in Canada and should verify the current state of affairs, as these laws can and do change periodically.